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Moreno Valley College Receives Grant for Veteran Student Assistance

By Robert Schmidt
Sr. Public Affairs Officer
01/19/2021 at 10:49 AM

Moreno Valley College was one of five colleges nationally to receive a US Department of Education Centers of Excellence grant to assist Veteran students. The two-year $450,000 grant will allow the College to increase support services in the Veterans Resource Center by coordinating services to address the academic, financial, physical, and social needs of Veteran students.

Currently, the Veterans Resource Center has a staff of one and one-half individuals. During the 2018-19 academic year, the College enrolled 15,197 students, of which 791 were Veterans. Of the 791 Veterans, 63 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were African American.

The only full-time member in the Veterans Resource Center is tasked with certifying Veteran students’ eligibility for Veteran Affairs educational benefits. The half-time employee is a counselor. The counselor-to-student ratio was 1 to 2,963 students, forcing Veteran students to endure long waiting periods to meet with the counselor.

“Building the capacity of the Center will allow for the hiring of additional staff and counselors to coordinate and support academic activities such as course advising, career exploration, cultural and social events, tours to four-year universities, and Veteran specific tutorial services, all of which have been a challenge to provide efficiently because of the current Veteran student-to-staff ratio at the VRC,” Andrew Sanchez, dean, Enrollment Services & Engagement, said. 

The grant will also allow for implementation of a peer-to-peer mentorship program that will assist new incoming Veteran students with the transition from military to college and increase retention rates among this group. 

“This support from the US Department of Education is important to us at the College and to our students and their families because our Veteran student population faces many challenges both on and off campus,” Sanchez added. “This award allows us to enhance much needed extra support to Veteran students. These factors, along with feelings of isolation and inadequacy, lack of familial support, and poor study skills, among many others, are barriers to student success and diminish our efforts to retain them through graduation and transfer.”

Veterans will receive services such as early registration; supplemental instruction; 24/7 one-on-one tutorial services; and writing, math and reading lab assistance as well as other personalized services. Funding will allow the program to have a dedicated counselor who will provide academic advising and monitor participants’ academic performance. 

“Counselors help in multiple ways from course and career advising as well as someone to talk with about the problems of transitioning into the civilian world,” US Army Veteran Jamin Northrop said. “I have a service disability, so having a counselor that understands that and is able to provide the accommodations needed to be successful is very beneficial. 

“Unfortunately, (the current counselor) is not always available which can be distressing at times. All of us Vets could really benefit from additional staff support, especially during this COVID pandemic.”

The proceeds from the grant will also provide Veterans with the assistance to complete financial aid, scholarship and university applications. Students who successfully transfer will be directly introduced to similar Veteran support programs that are available at four-year institutions.

“I want our Veteran students to know we are supporting them,” said Christopher Sweeten, vice president of Student Services. “These funds are to support no other group on campus other than our Veterans and will allow Veterans to have greater access to staff and assistance. As they get on the path to their careers, we want to be supportive of those endeavors. 

“Our plan is to become a resource to other institutions of higher education seeking to improve access, equity and success among Veterans across the United States.” 

In all, three of the five colleges who received awards are in California. In addition to MVC, Bakersfield and Fullerton also received allocations. Brandman University and Samuel Merritt University were the only four-year universities selected.

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